Distracted driving is the single most underestimated driver risk on the modern road. No matter how many times we are told and agree that using devices while driving is dangerous, there always seems to be a good reason to do so. The map absolutely has to be updated, and there’s nowhere to pull over. The phone call is too important to miss. And before you know it, another driver is reaching for their phone when they should have their eyes on the road.
Distracted driving has become one of the leading causes of accidents, up there with intoxication and left turns. While talking to passengers, eating, and reaching into the car are all causes of distracted driving, mobile devices have made the problem infinitely worse. Especially for people who drive professionally. Managing navigation and staying in contact puts a lot of pressure on drivers to interact with devices instead of focusing on the road.
Fortunately, there are ways for fleet managers and business owners to reduce the risks of distracted driving. The key is to keep the driver’s attention on the road and their hands on the wheel. Here’s how:
#1 Always Have a Navigator Riding Shotgun
In the ‘Old West’ days, riding shotgun means one person holding a gun to shoot bandits while the driver held the reigns. This tried-and-true technique also works in a modern context. The passenger uses their hands so the driver doesn’t have to.
The best and most reliable way to keep your drivers focused is to have someone else able to take on ‘the Com’ and the navigation duties. This way, the driver is completely relieved of their obligation to navigate or talk on the phone. When the passenger takes responsibility for these roles, the driver is free to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.
The driver then relies on their partner riding ‘shotgun’ to update the nav and to provide any important information from phone calls.
#2 Hands-Free Navigation System
Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to have a capable navigator in the passenger’s seat. Drivers who drive alone have to rely on more intuitive technology to keep them safe. Modern navigation systems have become fairly intuitive, but some still require ‘touches’ on the device screen to make changes. The problem is that when driving for work, drivers often don’t have the leisure to pull over every time they need to update or investigate their route.
If possible, connect your drivers with completely hands-free navigation software. Something that allows them to add new stops, avoid a highway, or update from headquarters without a single screen touch. Voice commands are the standard way to do this, but steering wheel buttons are an interesting alternative.
#3 Driver Supply Caddies
While devices are the primary source of distracted driving, reaching for things is a surprisingly common second. For a water bottle that fell under the seat, for a stick of chapstick, or shades in a sunbeam emergency. Drivers reaching around the seats not only take their eyes off the road, they are also more likely to pull the steering wheel without realizing it.
The good news is that the solution is easy and something many drivers figure out on their own: Caddies. It’s important to stow driver supplies (ie: anything a driver might need while in-motion) nearby and in a secure, predictable location. And closer than the glove compartment, which can require reaching to access.
#4 Limit Driver Communications
Many people think that hands-free communication is the answer to distracted driving. However, conversations have been contributing to driver distraction since long before the cellphone. Just like talking with passengers can serve as a distraction, so can phone calls. Especially when drivers may not feel able to say “I’m sorry, but I have to focus on driving now” when on the phone with their boss or HQ.
This means one of the best things you can do for drivers is to limit their communication. Don’t call your drivers when they’re on the road and don’t make your drivers feel obligated to answer phone calls. With this policy in place, it’s easier and safer for drivers to put down their phones completely while behind the wheel.
#5 Prevent Driver Calls from Ringing
However, it’s also unrealistic to expect all communications to your driver to stop while they are driving. HQ may be able to guess when drivers are unavailable, but not everyone will be. And life goes on. If the driver is called by another team, friend, or client their phone will still ring. And there will still be the temptation to pick it up.
Fortunately, phones have gotten pretty smart. With the right software or a phone solution like Ready Fleet, you can make sure that your driver’s phones don’t ring any time they are on the road. If the vehicle is in motion, it is possible to simply block all calls to your drivers until they have stopped again. This is the best way to make sure drivers are neither talking nor texting on the road.
#6 Stop for Meals
Another significant cause of distracted driving is eating and driving simultaneously. We have all done this at one point or another, often when rushing out the door with breakfast clutched between our teeth. Heck, that’s what ‘drive-thru’ fast food is all about. But it’s still a bad idea.
Eating and driving takes one hand off the wheel and some attention away from the driving task. Drop a piece of breakfast biscuit in your lap, and suddenly eyes are off the road as well. It just adds too much distraction. And while we all do it on the morning commute, fleet managers do not want drivers causing accidents due to rushed lunch.
So make sure that your drivers get enough time to pick up and eat lunch. And encourage them to eat lunch stopped under a shady tree rather than on the interstate.
Distracted driving is a serious risk for modern professional drivers. With the increased mobile technology and need to stay connected, it can be challenging for drivers to keep their attention completely on the road. Use these techniques to keep your drivers safe from undue distractions. For more information about how Ready Fleet can help your fleet eliminate distracted driving, contact us today!